Edelman’s Moral Quandaries (Pt. 5)–G.S.A.G.H.R.

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The acronym stands for: Getting Serious About Global Human Rights.

The United States pays a lot of lip service to the idea of global human rights — and compared to much of the rest of the world, we’re willing to do something about it more of the time — but too often we back down from the ideals of democracy when it suits us. The way we’ve helped Israel shunt aside the results of free, democratic elections in Palestine is shameful, and the way we turn a blind eye to similar human rights abuses in our allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia is equally ludicrous. But compared to much of the rest of the world, we’re light-years ahead. We’ve ditched slavery, worked hard to put all races on an equal footing, and we’re in the long, slow process of recognizing alternative sexual orientations. Until the whole planet works the same way, we’re going to have a hard time moving forward as a species.

    I have one big problem with this argument: it implies that everyone has to think like us in order for the species to survive, or something similar to it. While he is very right that global human rights are a moral imperitive, a necessity for the advancement of our species, we also have to realize that we all don’t come from the same background. Arabic nations have very different views on the treatment of women and marriage than we do. They don’t adhere to typical Christian morals which are intertwined in our society, even if you’d like to deny it. We are a Christian nation and would still be one even if all the Christians disappeared.
    Given that, we have to understand that people of differing religious have different views of how things are supposed to be and as such have grown up living in a world where such beliefs are firmly placed. There is very little room in some parts of the world for ‘radical’ change. America and similar nations are flukes. There are more polygamists than there are monogamists, etc. The U.S. isn’t the end-all-be-all for all things societal.
    However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find workable solutions for human rights. Surely people of other major religions don’t condone the murdering of people? Buddhists can’t think this and, extremism aside, neither can Muslims. I don’t know a lot about many of the various religions (Buddhism isn’t actually a religion, but I used it here anyway), but there has to be a standard in each of them that all of us can agree on.
    The biggest, and I mean the BIGGEST, thing that has to be dealt with first is the violation of human rights by the U.S. and her allies. We cannot, logically, sit around and tell people they aren’t allowed to do something if we actually do it. This is the same logic we use against people having nuclear weapons and it’s not out of the question for someone to ask “well, if you have them, why can’t we?” The U.S. government cannot commit crimes against humanity, even against criminals. There are rules against it and we have to follow them just like anyone else. The U.K. and any other ally of the U.S. counts here too, though I can’t point out any specific examples. The only thing I agree with President Shrub on is that Palestine and Israel HAVE to work things out and live peacefully. The Israeli’s aren’t going anywhere and neither are the Palestinians, so why are they bothering to fight and subvert one another when neither is going away? Likewise, it is imperative that the Middle East simply accept that Israel exists and will exist for a long time to come, otherwise we can expect to see further injustices committed there.
    Once we find that middle ground, it’s a matter of increasingly complex politics that have to be navigated cautiously. Nobody is going to pay our current President much attention on the subject of human rights. Who would? Most of the world doesn’t give him much attention in the way he would like. Regardless, it’s delicate. The second we start telling people what to do they’ll clam up and shut us off. In some cases we may be met with violence. The U.N., the global failure, won’t do anything either unless someone grows some balls and starts taking action. How many nations have violated the rules on human rights that are members? Dozens? Tens of dozens? I don’t know. I know at least ten. Why aren’t such nations having economic sanctions placed on them? Why aren’t they enforcing the rules?
    Global human rights, essentially, starts at home, must move on to global organizations, and then fed through every avenue possibly to outlying nations. If we can manage that, then we can expect that there might be different treatment of people, or peoples, in the world. The problem is WILL we do it? I don’t know. I’d like to think that enough of us care to at least stomp our feet down and say “enough is enough” and stop trading with nations that hurt their own people, but history has shown that that doesn’t always work out. As Edelman said, we are allied with nations that commit the very crimes we’ve sworn not to uphold. The U.S. has come a long way, but she’s still got a long way to go. It’s up to the U.S. government and the U.S. people to act out the changes necessary to begin by fixing human rights at home. Perhaps one day it’ll happen. Perhaps.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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